The Queen's Rangers Hussars - 1781

The Queen’s Rangers were probably the most famous, and certainly the most effective, of all the Loyalist corps that fought for the Crown during the Revolutionary War.  Originally raised in 1776 by Robert Rogers of “Roger’s Rangers” fame, his questionable loyalty led to Rogers’s replacement by a string of competent British officers, the third and final commandant being John Graves Simcoe, who succeeded to that post on 15 October 1777 with the Provincial rank of major (promoted to lieutenant colonel-commandant in 1778).  This was the first Provincial regiment to take the field in Sir William Howe’s army, bloodying itself at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown and later, under its new commander, at the battle of Monmouth and a myriad of smaller actions around Philadelphia, New York and Charleston.  Originally organized as a standard infantry regiment, Simcoe soon began to remodel it into a “legionary” corps of both horse and foot.  Simcoe was an expert in partisan warfare and under his tutelage, few excelled the Rangers.  In the Virginia campaigns of 1780-81, they covered themselves with further glory, executing brilliant maneuvers in such actions as Point of Fork, Richmond, and Spencer’s Ordinary.  Simcoe and most of the regiment went into captivity, after defending the works at Gloucester Point, as part of Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown.

            In late fall 1777, approximately a dozen of the best riders in the Rangers were issued horses, saddlery and swords to serve as mounted scouts in advance of the regiment.  After one was killed by a Hessian jaeger at Chestnut Hill who mistakenly thought him a Continental light dragoon by virtue of his wearing a captured cap, a singular headdress of “high caps, which might at once distinguish them both from the rebel army and their own” was introduced.  This cap, made of black cloth (reinforced inside with leather or pasteboard) and decorated with a green “bag” hanging from the crown and the crescent device and plume of the Rangers in front, was modeled on that traditionally worn by Hungarian light horse or hussars.  Thus it was that the mounted element became known as “Huzzars” and, having proved their utility, were augmented and formed into a troop of thirty (later expanded to fifty); two additional troops of horse were authorized in 1780.

Simcoe fought to preserve the original green uniforms issued to the Queen’s Rangers at the same time that most Provincial corps were being clothed in red, noting that “green is without comparison the best colour for light troops”.  For hot weather campaigning, plain, short, green jackets were adopted, trimmed with small regimental buttons and worn by both horse and foot.  Legwear for the Huzzars included leather breeches as well as white cloth breeches or green cloth overalls; all wore out quickly from the heavy service encountered in the Rangers.  The primary arms of a Huzzar was “a sword, and such pistols as could be bought or taken from the enemy”.   By 1780 the motley assortment of captured and surplus British swords carried earlier had largely been standardized by the issue of heavy, long-bladed swords with slotted iron hilts made by New York cutler James Potter and other contractors  —a menacing weapon in the hands of skilled practitioners.

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